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Gmail image changes affect email open tracking – and the MessageFocus fix

Earlier this month Google made a change to the way Gmail handles linked images, affecting tracking of email opens in the Gmail web interface.

Sometime in the first week of December, Google started redirecting the URLs for images embedded in emails through its own proxy servers.

What this meant for Email Reporting


As most open tracking methods (including those in MessageFocus) rely on embedded images, this meant:

• Gmail clients were no longer identified.
• The browsers used by Gmail users were incorrectly identified, as Googles’s proxy server is passing back false identification.
• Only the first time an email is opened is tracked, not any repeat opens.
• Because of the proxy server hosting, all Gmail contacts’ geographic locations were identified as being at Google’s HQ in Mountain View, California. Which probably isn’t the case.

Tracking of clicks within emails remain unaffected, and we continue to record all click details as before.

Obviously the open tracking situation isn’t ideal.

So, we made some changes just for Gmail

We’ve implemented the following improvements to the MessageFocus tracking system:

• Identification of Gmail clients was corrected for Gmail users reaching us through the new proxy servers.
• Repeat opens are now recorded after we modified our response to Gmail proxy servers for tracking image requests.
• Browser detection was disabled for requests from the Gmail proxy server. This information is not passed on to us by Google.

Unfortunately, as we do not receive any direct contact from the Gmail user for email opens, we’re still unable to identify the user’s geographic location. If this changes we’ll make sure the information is recorded.

On Thursday 12th December Google explained the reason behind these changes by announcing that images are to be enabled by default for Gmail web users and from early 2014 mobile users will also get this feature.

Adestra were able to make the necessary changes to handle the Gmail proxy servers before this announcement was made. This means that, although we have lost some valuable information about Gmail user locations and browser preferences we believe, on the whole, these changes are not a negative outcome for MessageFocus users.

With images enabled by default we gain more information about when Gmail contacts are reading emails, and they are more likely to see and appreciate the efforts you have taken to make those emails beautiful.

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